DOH eyes rabies-free Philippines by 2016

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 October) — The Department of Health aims to eliminate rabies nationwide by 2016 instead of 2020, following a directive from Health Secretary Enrique Ona who said the rabies elimination program should be finished by the time President Aquino steps down from office.

Mary Divene Hilario, newly installed rabies program manager for region XI, disclosed the new timeframe during the orientation training on the national rabies prevention and control program at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

In an interview Tuesday, Hilario said the move coincides with the Millenium Development Goal of reducing rabies incidence of rabies to 0.22 per million population by the same year.

She said the DOH has a budget of P69 million for rabies vaccination nationwide, with Region XI getting P6 million of the total amount.

This is on top of P2 million for capacity building for animal bite centers and bite treatment centers run by private and public hospitals, respectively.

Hilario, meanwhile, said the public should let go of misconceptions about rabies and their pets.

As of October, the DOH has recorded five deaths in the city due to rabies.

“Most of the deaths were due to the patients going to Tandok centers,” she said, referring to “alternative” clinics offering rabies treatment.

The official said the public can avail of shots at the nearest animal bite centers, such as the one at the Southern Philippines Medical Center and UM Multitest.

In 2013, Region XI registered 16 cases of rabies, slightly lower than 2012’s 14.

The SPMC, Hilario said, catered to around 50-75 animal bite patients per day.

“The number could rise,” she said. “We’re only in October.”

She added that densely populated areas like Davao City are more prone to rabies infections.

Earlier this year, the City Veterinarian’s Office said intensified impounding activities for stray dogs was being done alongside information campaigns for responsible pet ownership.

Among the target areas for vaccination were Talomo, Buhangin, and Poblacion.

The city’s budget for its rabies control program is P2.7 million, with P1.5 million allocated for dog vaccines.

According to the city’s Comprehensive Investment Plan for Health (CIPH), the CVO vaccinated 43,172 dogs in 2010.

Most of the animal bites in the city were by dogs, followed by rats, monkeys, pigs, guinea pigs, monitor lizards and hamsters.

In 2010, the CIPH added, there were 5,671 dog bite victims, with 96% availing of the post-exposure treatment.

Talomo North registered the highest incidence of dog bite cases (921), followed by Talomo South (802) and Buhangin (667).

In 2010 there were also three deaths recorded due to rabies. (MindaNews)